Queen Rania's Speech at Education Cannot Wait Conference 2013 - NY, USA

September 23, 2013

Thank you...

The social reformer, Frederick Douglass, once said, “It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”

Our discussions today strike at the heart of that statement.

In emergencies, the gap between strong children and broken children is as slight as it is fragile. It can close in the time it takes to flee danger and find safe refuge… between falling asleep and waking up in a home that’s shelled... between playing with friends and seeing their bodies scattered and lifeless.

As a mother…as a proud advocate for UNICEF…and as a member of the global community, it makes me angry that education in emergencies is such a low priority and so terribly underfunded. It’s hard to understand the indifference of decision-makers when the evidence for education in crises is so compelling and heartbreaking.

Our message today is not that children need education even in emergencies, it’s that children need education especially in emergencies.

It’s when they need it the most.

When they’re afraid and in pain…when they’ve lost loved ones…when they’re in strange places, haunted by nightmares…when they’ve lost toys that comfort them…when they’ve seen things that no child should ever have to see...and when they're so numb they can’t connect emotionally to others.

That’s when they need the routine of the school day…the distraction of lessons…the laughter of the playground…the goal of good grades... and the hope of a better future.

That’s when they need education the most. And that’s why we must not fail them today.

The gap for the children in Syria…for refugees in Jordan… Lebanon… Turkey… and Iraq...the gap for the children of Palestine and Gaza... is closing.

It is closing.

They need education now.

Not only so that they grow up with the tools for good jobs…but so that they grow up to be better people…better global citizens. People who forgive… tolerate... build bridges...help their neighbours … and live in blessed peace.

For years, UNICEF has been a lifeline for these children…and none more so than now.

I’d like to pay tribute to UNHCR and UNICEF and all the other agencies on the ground. Their staff are working around the clock to meet the challenges each new day brings. It’s not easy but they’re doing a great job.

I’d also like to recognize the partners and donors who make UNICEF’s work possible. Thanks to the generosity of Sheikha Mouza and the Qatar Foundation, for example, Syrian children are receiving school lessons… nutrition… and counseling. And as they do, they’re learning the meaning of compassion and community.

And I want to record my gratitude to the people of Jordan who, facing hardships of their own, have welcomed thousands of Syrians into their communities and schools. Jordan may be resource poor but our people are rich in human kindness. Jordanian children and Syrian children sit side by side in cramped classrooms, sharing teachers and books… but thousands more still need our help.

More than two years on, we must re-energize global efforts so that no school finds itself on the frontline…and no child is deprived of learning. In fact, that’s one of our recommendations on the post-2015 High Level Panel.

You know, the truest test of our humanity and our commitment to children is not how much we support them in times of peace and times of plenty.

No; the truest test of our humanity is how best we build strong children when crises reign and tragedy strikes.

For it is those moments which define us as a global community. Those moments that show the measure of our humanity. And it is those moments for which children will judge us all in years to come.

Thank you all for the wonderful work that you’re doing.